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Team Musharraf retreats, calls of emergency plan

Aug 09, 2007 11:37 PM IST India India
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New Delhi: The Pakistan government on Thursday decided not to impose emergency in the country but it has been unable to end speculation that it won’t use the option later. As of midnight last night Pakistan appeared all set for the sixth time in its 60 years of nationhood to go under the stifling blanket called a state of emergency. Two petitions before the Supreme Court seemed to be the reason the government was mulling emergency. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s petition wanted permission to return home. The other petition challenged the legitimacy of President General Musharraf's plans to get re-elected from the current National Assembly. Musharraf sensed danger in both cases. Sharif is unlikely to have forgiven or forgotten Musharraf's coup against him eight years ago and a court ruling against the General’s re-election would have ruined his plans to remain in uniform and still win a fresh five year term as president. So Musharraf’s drumbeaters went into overdrive. Leading the pack was the leader of the king's party Chaudhary Shujaat. He warned that the government could declare emergency because of internal and external threats. Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azeem said emergency could not be ruled out and Attorney General Malik Qayyum hinted that an emergency would not affect the presidential election. Experts say the intention was to browbeat the judiciary and get Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto to do a deal that would strengthen the general. Musharraf’s aides started getting second thoughts when the Supreme Court admitted Sharif's petition for hearing and Bhutto refused to cooperate. An overnight call from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly advised against any extreme moves. As the shadows lengthened in Islamabad, Musharraf's men made it clear that emergency would not be imposed right now.Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q), ruled out emergency. But that it remains an option clearly on the table as the country nears election season.